“A historic wrong. “ Former soldiers who were dismissed from the British army because of their sexual orientation or gender identity will now be able to recover their lost medals, the Ministry of Defense announced on Tuesday (February 16th).
The announcement was welcomed by the veterans association Fighting with Pride, which welcomes this “Return of LGBT + veterans to the military family where they will be recognized for their services”. Until a change in the law came about in 2000, lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people were not allowed to serve in the British military. Some were dismissed (200 to 250 per year, depending on The Guardian) and lost their medals upon demobilization.
On its website, the defense ministry said “To undertake to remedy this historic wrong” putting in place “A policy allowing these people to claim the return of their medals”. The soldiers concerned – or their close relatives in the event of death in the meantime – can now request that their case be examined by the defense council and will be decorated with a new medal if their case is approved.
“Very great injustice”
In a tweet, Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed the change that will fix this “Very great injustice”. L’association Fighting with Pride however calls for a more in-depth investigation into “The long-term consequences” of their dismissal on “Health, housing and employment” of LGBT + soldiers, “Many of whom still live in poverty today”.
The change comes after the legal battle waged by former Falklands War veteran Joe Ousalice, who last year managed to secure the return of his confiscated medal when he was forced to leave the Royal Navy in because of his sexual orientation. The septuagenarian from Southampton, a former radio operator who also served in the Middle East and Northern Ireland during his eighteen-year career, was deprived of his medal for long service and good conduct after being convicted by a court martial in 1993 for his bisexuality.